The dressing room is defiant

Saturday 03 February 2024 09:00

Deep into injury time at Molineux and Manchester United surrender a two-goal lead, a position twice held against Wolves, and all of the good work is in grave danger of coming undone.

Erik ten Hag's side were excellent in the first half, and should have been out of sight instead of only leading 2-0, with two goals disallowed for offside. Wolves made a fight of it after the break but, after being awarded a penalty when Pedro Neto tumbled inside the box, Pablo Sarabia converting it, the two-goal advantage was restored when Scott McTominay headed home Bruno Fernandes's corner.

Max Kilman's effort was always going to make for a nervous finish but a breakaway strike by Neto left the Reds crestfallen. This was a massive blow to take and you can only imagine the reaction that was about to follow.

For starters, it would have left Ten Hag's men needing a four-goal victory against West Ham United on Sunday, just to overtake the east Londoners in sixth spot.

Ten Hag's team news for Hammers clash


The boss provides a detailed review of the state of his squad, in advance of Sunday's return to Old Trafford action.

Yet that would have been irrelevant, in many respects, with a failure to see games out that ruined the UEFA Champions League campaign (against Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen) returning to haunt the team.

Of course, we also twice led against Tottenham in our previous Premier League meeting, and had to settle for a point at Old Trafford.

However, as Ten Hag has pointed out, there is more evidence of fighting back in the face of adversity than of things going the other way. The dramatic turnaround against Brentford and injury-time win at Fulham are classic examples. And there is no doubt the Reds were on the floor when Molineux rejoiced at the prospect of a point being snatched in such circumstances.

Step forward Kobbie Mainoo, for his incredible intervention, to regain the lead and provide a lightning bolt of energy and confidence.

For Ten Hag, it spoke volumes about the character of the whole squad, one that is constantly under the microscope and subjected to the most intense scrutiny.

"It's not the first time this season," he told radio journalists. "This side, this dressing room has a very good spirit, very resilient. Very determined to get results. That's not so easy, when you get so many setbacks as we have had in the first half of the season.

"To keep the spirit and the mood positive, but you see that we are.

"This team is a fighting team and we will keep fighting to the end."

All The Angles: Mainoo v Wolves Video

All The Angles: Mainoo v Wolves

All The Angles | Seriously, Kobbie Mainoo’s winner at Molineux gets better and better with every watch…

The boss accepts the glare surrounding the club but insists how things are perceived on the outside is not a fair reflection of the dressing room.

"There's always noise around Manchester United," he acknowledged. "So we don't care. We focus on football. We focus on performance.

"The outside doesn't know what is inside."

Erik also stressed the Wolves win will count for nothing if West Ham are not overcome at Old Trafford on Sunday. But, with a chance to go above David Moyes's men and continue looking upwards in the table, the opportunity simply has to be seized.